Gym teacher accused of using AI voice clone to try to get a high school principal fired

A physical education teacher and former athletic director of a Baltimore County high school has been arrested and charged with using an AI voice cloning service to frame the school’s principal.

The Baltimore Banner reports that Baltimore County police believe a recording that circulated on social media in January with purported audio of Pikesville High School principal Eric Eiswert making racist and antisemitic comments was fake. Experts told The Baltimore Banner and police that the recording, which briefly resulted in Eiswert’s suspension, has a “flat tone, unusually clean background sounds, and lack of consistent breathing sounds or pauses.” 

Baltimore County police traced the recording to Dazhon Darien, a former athletic director at the school whose name was also mentioned in the audio clip. He allegedly used school computers “to access OpenAI tools and Microsoft Bing Chat services,” as reported by WBAL-TV 11 and NBC News. He was also linked to the audio’s release via an email address and associated recovery phone number.

It is not clear what AI voice platform Darien allegedly used.

The police arrested Darien on Thursday at the airport and said in a statement, “It’s believed Mr. Darien, who was an Athletic Director at Pikesville High School, made the recording to retaliate against Mr. Eiswert who at the time was pursuing an investigation into the potential mishandling of school funds.” He has been released after posting bail and faces charges including theft (for the issue with school funds), disturbing the operations of a school, retaliation against a witness, and stalking.

Over the past year, interest in AI-powered voice cloning technology has grown as the services get better at sounding more human. But these apps have also gotten people into hot water. The political party of Imran Khan, the jailed former prime minister of Pakistan, used ElevenLabs, a popular commercially available text-to-voice generation platform, to replicate his voice during the campaign. Two Texas companies were linked to a fake robocall pretending to be President Joe Biden telling people not to vote. The Federal Communications Commission banned the use of AI robocalls in February. And of course, the fake Drake used AI to create the song “Heart on My Sleeve.”

In this fraught environment, OpenAI decided in March to withhold its AI text-to-voice generation platform, Voice Engine, from public use. The service, which only requires a 15-minute audio clip to clone someone’s voice, is only available to a limited number of researchers due to the lack of guardrails around the technology.

US lawmakers have filed, but not yet passed, several bills like the No Fakes Act and the No AI Fraud Act that seek to prevent technology companies from using an individual’s face, voice, or name without their permission.

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